NYC’s 25-Year Plan for its Urban Forests

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Joel Meyerowitz

A recent New York Times article by James Barron features an interview with Natural Areas Conservancy Executive Director Sarah Charlop-Powers and Senior Ecologist Helen Forgione about the story behind the new Forest Management Framework for New York City’s urban forest. Prospect Park Alliance President and Administrator Sue Donoghue is also featured. Climate change, invasive plants, forests at tipping points–and the mitigations for all these dilemmas that the Framework will power–are discussed.

About the Forest Management Framework for New York City

A joint project of the Natural Areas Conservancy and NYC Parks, the Forest Management Framework for New York City is a strategic and comprehensive plan to bolster and protect New York City’s vital urban forests. It is the first citywide vision for this critical piece of infrastructure. The plan is intended to guide restoration, management, and community engagement for 7,300 acres of New York City’s forested parkland. The 25- year plan includes the process, costs, steps, recommendations, best practices, and goals for forest management in NYC. It marks the culmination of six years of research, data collection, and analysis by NAC scientists. 

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NYC Parks Deployment to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria

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A Puerto Rican flag painted on the roots of an uprooted tree in Old San Juan. Photos Courtesy NYC Parks

In this post, NYC Parks Arborists Jessica Einhorn and Brooke Costanza answer questions about their deployment to San Juan, Puerto Rico from October 29-November 13, 2017. They were the first two NYC Parks arborists to be deployed to Puerto Rico following the devastation of Hurricane Maria, which made landfall on September 20, 2017 with sustained winds of 155 mph.

In addition to causing widespread human misery, Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the Island’s trees. A total of eight teams of New York City employees traveled to Puerto Rico to help out; each group was assembled based on what San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz’s staff identified as a priority. Einhorn and Costanza performed forestry inspections with other NYC Parks staff and the NYC Office of Emergency Management.

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NYC Parks Arborists and story authors Brooke Costanza (left) and Jessica Einhorn (right)

Were your assessments guiding the work of arborists coming right behind you?
Jessica Einhorn and Brooke Costanza: Absolutely they were. When we first arrived, it was apparent that the local government resources were stretched very thin, so we were tasked with creating our own plan of action on the spot. We started surveying the largest parks and created reports with recommendations for necessary tree work. After speaking with local Parks staff, we sent for additional NYC Parks’ arborists, climbers and pruners to help carry out this recommended work, as there were not adequate resources and expertise on the Island. At the end of our deployment, the arborists who took over continued inspecting trees throughout the City of San Juan.

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Green-Wood Cemetery Employs Drone to Assist with Oak Wilt Diagnosis

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A drone’s aerial perspective on a red oak (Quercus rubra), infected with oak wilt, in Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery.

NYSDEC recently launched its use of drones for things like monitoring coastal erosion on Lake Ontario, exploration of bat caves in Mineville, restoration of beach dunes on Fire Island, and monitoring Southern pine beetle in pine stands on Long Island. There are few known instances of drone use in the urban forests of New York; it’s thought that this is because people are worried about safety and are uncertain about the potentially prohibitive laws at work in populous areas.

However, the Council’s own Joseph Charap has begun using drones in Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn with the help of his colleague, Vice President of Operations, Eric Barna. (Charap is Green-Wood’s Director of Horticulture and Curator.) Their first use of Barna’s Phantom 3 drone was to get aerial imagery of a veteran red oak (Quercus rubra) tree at Green-Wood that Charap suspected might be infected with oak wilt. 

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Getting to Know the Multitalented James Kaechele

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James taking tree pics in Melbourne. All photos courtesy James Kaechele

New York Tree Trust Development Director James Kaechele joined the Council Board last summer. The Council is lucky to have the contributions of this powerhouse who has achieved so much at 33! Here’s James in his own words. 

From Scouts to Manhattan Forester  
Growing up in suburban Connecticut, I spent my childhood camping and scouting, eventually becoming an Eagle Scout. My family had a trailer in the White Mountains of New Hampshire on a lake; the best time of my childhood was being totally free to explore the forest.

When it was time to go to college in the early 2000s, I thought about going into plant biotech, but ultimately decided I didn’t want to work in a lab all day. I was always most interested in connecting people to the natural world. I majored in environmental and forest biology at SUNY ESF and while I was still a student, I worked at Bartlett Arboretum in Stamford, Connecticut as an educator and then interim education director.

When I graduated I continued working at the arboretum as the education director. I was in charge of both child and adult education, so I was doing things like teaching busloads of first graders about the parts of a flower and putting “bee goggles” on them so they could see what a bee sees. I organized classes on all sorts of interesting topics for adults in the evenings and did some of the teaching myself. It was an exciting and fun job. 

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NYC Parks’ Liam Kavanagh Brings Big-Picture Discussion to Council Board

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NYC Parks Commissioner Liam Kavanagh. Photo by Michelle Sutton, from 2016 SMA Conference 2016

Last month, NYC Parks First Deputy Commissioner  Liam Kavanagh came and spoke with the Council Board at their meeting at the NYSDEC Region 2 office on Long Island. Commissioner Kavanagh discussed three national, big-picture urban forestry projects with the Board: the Ten-Year Urban Forestry Action Plan, a report on the Impact of Urban and Community Forestry Federal Grants, and the Urban Forestry Toolkit. Let’s look at each one.

1) The Ten-Year Urban Forestry Action Plan (2016-2026) was developed by and for the urban forestry community. It was funded by the US Forest Service and developed by the National Urban and Community Forestry Advisory Council (NUCFAC)* with extensive input from stakeholders. You can read an interesting interview with Liam Kavanagh about the Plan here.

The Plan’s purpose is to expand awareness of the benefits that our urban forests, including green infrastructure, provide to communities throughout the nation, and increase investments in these urban forest resources for the benefit of current and future generations.

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Joe Charap, and Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery as Urban Arboretum

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New NYSUFC Board Member Joseph Charap is the Director of Horticulture and Curator for Green-Wood in Brooklyn. He’s also a new dad—his son Benjamin was born on September 3rd. Charap and his Green-Wood colleagues are transforming the historic landscape of this cemetery into an urban arboretum/public garden and expanding the ways people utilize its many resources.

Joe Charap:

I am a native New Yorker and I grew up in Lower Manhattan. After earning a BA and an MA in English Literature, I began working in a schizophrenia research lab. In my limited free-time, I assisted a professional gardener working in residential gardens around the city. It was during this time that I really began to connect with trees and other plants.

Through this work and other projects, it became clear to me that horticulture was my calling, but that I needed to get professional training. After a chance meeting with New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) Vice President Francisca Coelho in 2013, I applied to and was accepted into NYBG’s School of Professional Horticulture. During my second year of the program, I held an internship at Green-Wood, and upon graduating, I was hired as Curator of Plant Collections. In January of 2017, I was made Director of Horticulture at Green-Wood.

Green-Wood Cemetery was founded in 1838 as one of the earliest “rural cemeteries.” It’s an accredited Level II Arboretum, occupying 478 acres in Brooklyn. We believe we will achieve Level III Accreditation within the next five years, as we continue to diversify our tree and shrub collection. [Level III arboreta have at least 500 species of woody plants, employ a collections curator, have substantial educational programming, collaborate with other arboreta, publicize their collections, and actively participate in tree science and conservation.] 

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Get to Know Him! … Andrew Newman Edition

Interviewee Andrew Newman (4)
Photos Courtesy Andrew Newman

Andrew Newman joined the Council Board last summer. He is Senior Correspondence Liaison for the Brooklyn Borough Commissioner’s Office.

Can you tell us about your childhood influences that foreshadowed getting interested in arboriculture and urban forestry?
Andrew Newman: Growing up in Brooklyn, Prospect Park was always my big, open backyard. From a very young age, I volunteered for sapling planting efforts and learned about wildlife habitats from local park rangers. I have family from Palmyra, New York (outside Rochester) whose property was covered with walnut, oak, and conifers so that growing up, I became well acquainted with trees. After studying the intersection of religious traditions and the environment as well as the deep ecology movement, I decided I was interested in pursuing a career that would marry public service, public engagement, and nature.

What was your educational trajectory leading to arboriculture and urban forestry?
AN: With degrees in Religion and Classics and Clinical Psychology, mine was a circuitous route to urban forestry! Most of my educational experience has been on the job and in classes provided by NYC Parks, Trees New York, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and other local organizations. Learning about forest ecosystems from experts in the field has been especially helpful. 

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NYU Students Tend Street Trees through NYC Parks Stewardship Program

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by Nichole Henderson-Roy, Senior Stewardship Manager, Forestry, Horticulture & Natural Resources, NYC Parks

On August 29th and 30th, 2017, the NYC Parks Stewardship program welcomed the first-year class of the NYU College of Arts and Sciences to New York in a truly grand style. Over two days, 1,435 students and 60 staff members cared for 1,570 trees!

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NYC Parks Director of Forestry-Brooklyn Andrew Ullman on Containing Oak Wilt

owleaves1NYC Parks Director of Forestry for Brooklyn Andrew Ullman shares news of oak wilt containment efforts in that borough.

The image at left shows how oak wilt appears on the leaves of white oak (A) and on red oak (B). The leaves fall prematurely, with some green still present, from the affected trees.   

Andrew Ullman:

To date, there has only been one confirmed case of oak wilt in NYC (Brooklyn) though there are several known outbreaks on Long Island. Oak wilt was first confirmed in Brooklyn in Green-Wood Cemetery during the fall of 2016. It should be noted, this tree was on private property and therefore not under the jurisdiction of NYC Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks). NYC Parks has sampled about a dozen trees that are presenting possible oak wilt symptoms. We are currently awaiting the results from the lab and expect to have them within the next few weeks.

The potential impacts on NYC’s urban forest are significant. Citywide, there are nearly 90,000 street trees in the oak genus. Oaks make up roughly 13% of our street trees, and there are many more oaks growing in our parks and natural areas. Oak wilt, caused by Ceratocystis fagacearum, is a lethal vascular wilt fungi. Symptoms include wilting, defoliation, and ultimately death of the host tree. The disease is transmitted by root grafts or insects and affects host trees in a manner similar to Dutch elm disease.

After the confirmed case of oak wilt in Brooklyn, NYC Parks created a proactive inspection program to inspect trees within the boundary established around the confirmed infection site. Parks has inspected all of the oaks trees growing on the streets and in our parks within that boundary. Between NYC Parks inspectors and our friends at Trees New York, we looked at more than 3,000 oak trees as part of this program. We have also created a contract specifically for managing oak wilt. The work completed under this contract will aid us in our efforts to control the spread of oak wilt if we do find it has spread beyond the initial infection site.

Additionally, we are working closely with NYSDEC, Green-Wood Cemetery, and Cornell University’s Plant Pathology Lab to coordinate response and share information. Finally, we are also limiting non-emergency work on oak trees during the growing season to limit the likelihood of spreading the disease.

Please see as well a previous post about preventing the spread of oak wilt with DEC Oak Wilt Operations Coordinator Jennifer Kotary.

 

 

Ashleigh Pettus and Trees New York’s Young Urban Forester Internship

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Some of the 2017 Young Urban Forester Interns, with program coordinator Ashleigh Pettus at far left.

Ashleigh Pettus is the Operations Manager & Environmental Educator for Trees New York. She coordinates the organization’s summer Young Urban Forester Internship, which began in 2008.  

Can you tell us about your educational background and how you came to Trees New York?
Ashleigh Pettus: I graduated from Lehman College in 2016 with a BA in History and Minor in Childhood Education. I spent my winter and spring breaks volunteering; one of my most memorable spring breaks is when we traveled to Perryville, Arkansas to spend a week at Heifer International. There, I learned about rural farming and sustainability; I loved it so much, I went back and spent three months there.

When I came back to NYC, I wanted to share my knowledge but it had to be adapted to an urban setting. I found Just Food and taught some of their Farm School NYC classes. Soon after that I worked at Wave Hill in the Bronx, where I started to learn tree identification, fell in love with trees, and realized I wanted to focus my energy there. I was fortunate to be hired by Trees New York in the summer of 2015 to be an environmental educator. Eventually I became the Young Urban Forester Internship program coordinator as well. It’s a pleasure to share the things I’ve learned in this environmental field with my summer interns.

Please tell us about the internship.
AP: Trees New York’s Young Urban Forester Internship is a seven-week, 175-hour urban and community forestry paid experience. The goal of the annual summer program is to introduce up to 16 high school juniors and seniors from low-income households in New York City to careers in the fast-growing field of environmental science and in urban forestry specifically.

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